Friday, August 04, 2006

"I love math and science!"

I stepped out of my car day before yesterday into the hot blast of another early morning, humid, Texas day.

Folks were already making their way to our front door and to the Resource Center just inside.

As I walked across the street toward the building, I greeted an older gentleman and two elderly women who were with him. At the side of one of the women was a beautiful little girl. I expect she was about 10-years-old.

I welcomed them all, commented on the heat wave that is always Dallas this time of year and then, I turned to the little girl.

"I bet you're enjoying the summer," I said to her.

She smiled back at me, as her grandmother declared proudly, "This is my daughter's oldest girl."

"Are you glad school's not starting yet?" I asked.

"Oh, no. I can't wait to get back to school," she replied.

"Really!" I exclaimed with some surprise, remembering my own summers past and the thought of going back to school!

"You like school, do you?" I went on.

"Yes! I love math," she beamed.

"Well, that is great," I encouraged, now ashamed of my faulty assumptions based on my own attitude at 10, er, and 18, I'm afraid!

"And, I love science, too!" she volunteered.

"Stick with that math and science," I counseled as they walked on. "You stay with that and things will go well for you."

As I made my way up the steps to my office, I wondered if things would go well for her.

So much can happen between 10 and 22, you know?

When your steps are complicated, compounded and distracted by the day-to-day noise, clutter and obstacles brought on by poverty, racism and disadvantage, things often don't go so well.

My new little friend reminded me why we are here and why it is that we do what we try to do.

She also sobered me up early for my day.

If it is up to her alone, I know she will be more than just fine. She will achieve beyond belief. I pray that she does.

Trouble is life is never just up to us, whether we speak of privilege and advantage or oppression and disadvantage.

I will remember her for a long time, I know.

She and her family are the keys to our universe here.

And then there is our commitment to strengthening the community. For this one little girl to be successful, lots of other people around her need to be equipped for their own success and ready to do the important work of supporting, preparing and launching her into the rest of her life.


Charles Senteio said...

Very well put Larry and let's not forget that she is best positioned when we understand that our success is tied to hers, and hers to ours. We must not fail her because we must not fail ourselves. We must not fail ourselves because of the tremendous gifts, and responsibilities, given to us by our Creator... no matter the name we call him/her.

A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under which they will never sit.
-- Greek Proverb

Larry James said...

Charles, you sound like Dr. King! And, of course, your point is exactly right.

To short change or to ignore or to dismiss this precious little girl in any way whatsoever is to disregard my own, our own personal and community self-interest. Why is that so hard to see?

MommyHAM said...

Flashbacks, Larry, flashbacks are what you've given me, re: my own mental state towards school at that age.

I hope she keeps it up - I did what a lot of girls try to do with adolescence and dumb down to social acceptance. Try being the operative word. When I got to college, I just plain didn't care and went back to over achieving. :)

Anonymous said...

When I was in school the achievers were looked up to. Perhaps it was just the school or the time.

Daniel Gray said...

Makes me wonder what school is doing right when all of us on the outside tend to talk about all of its problems and shortcomings...

RC said...

Your post makes me think of teachers. My wife is a teacher in a school with a bad reputation, but it is filled with a group of dedicated teachers who are determined to make a difference. She will need many things, but if she happens on a few good teachers her chances at success will go through the roof. Teachers are some of the most important people on earth, especially those who see their profession as a calling and not just a job. I bet you each one of us could tell story after story of a teacher who made a difference, who lighted a fire under us to be somebody, to acheive, to love learning. Great post.

Larry James said...

RC, thanks for this. You are so right. Teachers make all the difference. Dedicated teachers are possibly the most important people in a community.

Stoned-Campbell Disciple said...

We all need to be reminded of the hope and purity of a 10 yr old. It is a sad commentary on our world that it will take other folks to screw it up for her. I am reminded of Jonathan Kozol's book, AMAZING GRACE ... when I finished it I thought it should have been called Amazing DISgrace on "us."

But she does fill us with hope. May God bless her and protect her.

Bobby Valentine
Stoned-Campbell Disciple